Tamara Irving has an enthusiasm for dance and learning that is contagious. Her bio reads that you might find her dancing in the halls of schools or grocery store aisles. Certainly her dancing has taken her all over the world, as a premiere cast member of Disney’s The Lion King and as a performer with The Atlanta Opera. But she now lays roots in Atlanta, and is dedicated to shaping the dance education scene there. The Dance Director of her alma mater, North Atlanta High School (NAHS), Tamara has the goal of developing the department to be as strong as it was in the ‘90s, when the NAHS was an arts magnet school. She helped launch the school’s International Baccalaureate Dance program, a chapter of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts, and a parents’ Dance Fans group within the first few years of her teaching. But as a new educator, she was thirsty for more professional learning for herself to help her achieve all that she envisioned.
It was at this time, at a workshop with Patricia, Luna’s Director of Teaching & Learning, that Tamara was first introduced to creative dance, and it sent her mind whirling – she immediately imagined integrating creative dance into her curriculum. Inspired and encouraged by Patricia, she applied to the Summer Institute, and joined the 2013 cohort. Here she found the professional learning environment she was seeking, and a forum for learning more about teaching with a creative lens. As she experimented with exploration, improvisation and composition concepts, Tamara discovered that her students loved making dances, and their engagement level increased 100%. She also found that with curriculum more focused on developing students’ individual artistic voices, rather than what might be right or wrong, her classes were more welcoming to all students, particularly those with special needs. Her dedication to the dance department, her students, and her own inquiry into creative dance led her school to honor Tamara with Teacher of the Year 2014-15.
Now Tamara is balancing teaching, dancing professionally, parenting 3 children, and graduate school as she pursues a Masters of Dance Education at University of North Carolina – Greensboro. She is developing a full four-year scope and sequence of high school dance curriculum that includes composition and reflection. Her student dance concerts have shifted from featuring her choreography, to focusing on dance pieces only by the students, and she’s found that students are taking more ownership of the process. “Seeing beginning students rise to the occasion when I allow them to compose – I’m always excited by this.”
Tamara’s vision for dance in Atlanta continues to grow: “I wish that dancers would be able to train here and be offered the same classes offered in other cities. We should be able to work here and support ourselves as working dancers.” With her passion, perseverance, commitment to personal inquiry, and her cultivation of aspiring young dance artists, we have no doubt that Tamara will lead the way in putting Atlanta’s dance scene on the map.
You can read more about Tamara’s work at www.tamarairving.wordpress.com.
In 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe.
From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. We’re sharing their stories, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world.